Zaza Pachulia will follow coach Larry Drew to Milwaukee, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. According to the report, Pachulia verbally agreed with the Bucks to a three-year deal worth $16 million.
Drew coached Pachulia when Big Z arrived in Atlanta eight years ago, and the two will reunite in Cream City.
LD started with the Hawks in the 2004-05 season, first as an assistant to former coach Mike Woodson and then serving as head honcho when Woody was fired in 2010. Zaza came over to Atlanta before the 2005-06 campaign, which was Drew’s second season.
Zaza won’t only be reuniting with coach Drew, he’ll be reuniting with the Bucks organization as well — he played for Milwaukee for one year (2004-05) before heading south to Hotlanta.
The 6’11” center was drafted by Orlando in the second round of the 2003 draft, played for the Magic his rookie season, then got shipped to Milwaukee. After his one-year stint with the Bucks was up, he found a home with the Hawks for the following eight years.
Pachulia started all 78 games he appeared in during his first year with Atlanta (2005-06), averaging 11.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. However, despite his breakout season, Big Z was reduced to a reserved role coming off the bench.
Zaza quickly became a fan favorite of Hawks fans for his physical play and unrelenting effort — and for also going toe-to-toe, or head-to-head to be accurate, with Jason Richardson and Kevin Garnett on separate occasions.
Back in April of 2011, during the final minutes of a Game 3 Eastern Conference playoff series between Atlanta and Orlando, Big Z head-butted J.Rich after the little pipsqueak rushed over to save big doof Dwight Howard, who initiated an altercation when he threw a late elbow at Pachulia after a hard foul was called. Dwight drove hard to the rim, Zaza (like a brick wall) stopped him in his tracks, the two got tangled up, then Dwight threw a sneaky elbow to Zaza’s head after the whistle was blown. Pachulia, like a G, stepped up to Dwight, but Dwight didn’t want none. Instead, J.Rich, who is five inches and 40 lbs lesser the man than Dwight is, had to swoop in and rescue the big chicken — by getting his dome knocked by a crazy Georgian.
Zaza’s next on-court altercation was against a much more formidable adversary — noted tough guy Kevin Garnett. Like the Dwight incident, the scuffle between Pachulia and Garnett occured in a playoff series. And further like the Dwight incident, KG tried to get away with a sneaky elbow. Big Z wasn’t having that! He stepped up to Garnett and Garnett backed down, leading one writer to dub Pachulia “Balboa” after the lead character from the Rocky series of movies.
Pachulia’s deal with Milwaukee can’t be officially signed until Wednesday, when the league lifts its annual moratorium on free-agent signings and trades.
He averaged 5.9 points and 6.5 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per game last season for the Hawks.